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Part 5 - Aftermath

Endor +16 Days

CRS Vigilant Main Briefing Amphitheater

The applause was long and loud. The new commanders let it go on until it began to peter out on its own. Jedi raised his hands in a call for silence to stop the rest of the more enthusiastic celebratory personnel. The rest of the applause died out instantly.

Rogue picked at his recently sewn Buccaneer Squadron patch on his shoulder as he stood at ease. He caught Lock's eyes and stopped fidgeting, and mouthed a 'Sorry'. He couldn't help it that he was kind of bored, and always had been at these large meetings.

Syntax, the leader of Corsair Squadron, stepped up to the podium and gave the droid approximation of a throat clear. "I would like to introduce you all to the newest pilots in Corsair Squadron in no particular order. Lieutenants Gemilan, Whitemont, and recently-promoted Captain Callahan are the newest in a long and storied line of Corsair pilots, and I look forward to seeing them carry on and continue to build that legacy. Step forward and be recognized, please."

Lock, and Gremlin stepped forward. There was a snicker from the crowd, and Gremlin's skin turned a deeper shade of red as she thought they were being laughed at. More laughter followed.

The two pilots looked around and saw that they were the only ones to step forward. More of the assembled personnel began laughing.

"Same old Corsairs, making up pilots to fill the ranks," a pilot in the crowd stage whispered to more laughter.

Rogue didn't understand what was apparently an inside joke, but was relieved for his companions that it turned out they weren't the source of the laughter directly.

"It would seem Lieutenant Whitemont didn't recognize his name was called?" Jalb smirked.

"A moment, please," Syntax said as his visual receptors dimmed for a moment and a slight buzz could be heard emanating from the droid. After a moment, his eyes lit up and his head swiveled. "Actually, the mistake was mine. Lieutenant Whitemont hadn't received his orders and did not know he was invited to join the wing. The mistake has been rectified. My apologies."

Jedi stepped forward and patted the droid on the shoulder. "It happens to the best of us. Let us all welcome the new Lieutenant at his first briefing, so long as somebody actually tells him to show up this time," he said with a grin.

"I guess it would be suspect now if I mentioned that there would be a few more new recruits coming in sometime today on a shuttle?" Syntax questioned.

More laughter and applause ensued.


Battle of Endor

Red 8

POV: Rogue

"Okay Shade time for us to get the hell out of here." Shade whistled back an urgent agreement. "Divert energy from the weapon system to the engines." Rogue felt the X-Wing surge forward as extra power was diverted from the fighter's weapons into the engines. The Alliance fleet had disengaged from the Imperial forces and was now trying to put as much distance between itself and the doomed Death Star.

Moments later the inside of his cockpit was illuminated by a brilliant flash of light. Rogue raised his left arm and shielded his eyes from the blinding nova. There was a second flash as the Death Star exploded, sending out an enormous blast wave that managed to destroy several Imperial Star Destroyers that had not reacted quick enough to the unfolding situation and crippled many more.

The Imperial forces that survived the destruction of the Imperial battle station were left in disarray. One by one some of the Imperial warships started to jump out of the Endor system. The Alliance was in no shape to stop them so let them go, the Imperials that remained either due to damage to their ships or out of sheer shock of defeat took one of two options. Some chose to fight on with those that did receive the full attention of the remaining Alliance fleet. Another contingent was reforming across the system and their intentions weren't clear at the moment.

Confident that all threats within the system had been dealt with, there were no more hostiles showing on the X-Wing's HUD. Rogue reached up and flicked the switch for the S-foils to close. Pointing the nose of his fighter back towards the fleet, he headed back to the Home One. "Red Eight is requesting permission to land."

"Denied, Red Eight," the flight controller replied. "We need all birds in the air until we know what the rest of the Imperial Fleet is doing. Are you too damaged to continue?"

Rogue sighed, pulling his fighter about and flipped the S-Foil toggle again, opening them back up. "No, control, I'm still good to go," he replied. Under his breath, he added "miraculously."


Endor +16 Days

CRS Vigilant Main Briefing Amphitheater

The good natured laughter continued for a short spell until Stryker stepped back up to the podium that Syntax recently vacated.

"Another bit of news regarding the state of the taskforce," he began, looking down at his datapad. "The Vigilant Taskforce will be deploying with a litany of support ships that deserve to be recognized. We will have three Nebulon B Escort Frigates, the Regis, Rez'nor, and the Black Hawk. Each of these ships has been the home to a storied squadron in the past, namely Red, Green, and Kalidor Squadrons. They will again be the temporary homes to our squadrons depending upon the mission profile. Their crews are as battle tested as they come, and will serve with distinction in the campaigns to come."

The room applauded politely at the news of the bigger support ships that the pilots and personnel may be staying for a time, though there was a nervous energy among the Liberty veterans as they feared they would be separated on separate ships as opposed to all being together as they were used to. A few murmured uneasily amongst themselves.

Stryker continued. "We also have the services of an MC30 Mon Calamari Frigate, called the Waverunner, which is a rare but surprisingly sturdy ship that will surely catch the Empire off guard. We currently also have the services of six Corellian Corvettes, as well as a Dornean Gunship. All of these crews served with distinction at Endor, and we have no doubt in our minds that they will continue to do so going forward."

The room applauded again, and there was quite a bit of crosstalk amongst the assembled personnel, no doubt due to the news of the two rarer ships mentioned. There weren't many Mon Cal Frigates or Dornean Gunships in the Alliance, so they were all curious about the specs.

Tattoo snorted quietly. She was well versed in the capabilities in both ships from her lengthy service in the Alliance. "The forward torp launchers on the MC30 will surprise some Imps I think," she mumbled.

"Aye," Digger replied quietly. "And the 8 concussion missile launchers on that gunship will come in handy when fighters come close."

Tattoo nodded. "Yeah, those Braha'tok's are particularly nasty," she replied. "They can really tear through a snub fighter," she mumbled with a shiver.


Battle of Endor

SAR Mercy Two

POV: Tattoo

"It's spinning," Digger noted from the copilot's seat and issued a prediction about the disabled starfighter that rotated ahead in the distance, stroking at his whiskers. "That beam is going to be a problem."

Tattoo suspected he was right with a familiar sense of unease.

She had disabled the nav computer's audible notifications. So many beacons, so little time, each ding a reminder that someone else's life still lay on the line. Ordinarily, she was good at smothering the wave of anxiety that accompanied each gentle chime, but exhaustion was beginning to make that difficult. Silver and Digger must have been feeling equally tense, but they had yet to voice a complaint. As they approached the drifting A-Wing, only the gentle hum of their engines filled the fuselage.

This fighter had seen better days. Tattoo couldn't be certain just where the shrapnel that pierced the A-Wing's hull had originated, only that it had split her from nose to stern in more than one place. Debris of its ilk now littered the battlefield, a carpet of deadly metal that had punched holes through anything unfortunate enough to be in the explosive path. Even shields failed to withstand kinetic force of that magnitude.

Pulling up alongside the mangled ship, Tattoo brought her U-Wing's airlock to bear toward the slowly spinning sister craft. Matching the drift of the A-Wing long enough to stabilize her rotation was a delicate job in itself, one that she executed while Digger pulled himself up and over the back of his seat wordlessly. He used the exposed overhead tubing to swing through the cabin, swiping his helmet and donning it on the way through the passenger section. Tattoo could hear him clanging around in the back, collecting the tools he would need for extraction. He didn't often take the lead on these missions, not like Boogie had. The missing pilot's callsign made her throat close, so she banished the thought.

"Silver? Hey, human, are you with us?" Digger could be heard saying as Tattoo adjusted the yoke with a precise hand, preventing her from glancing backward over her shoulder. "Silver, Coruscant to Silver, do you copy?"

"I can't," the other woman's voice was small. "I can't, I can't do this, I just-- I can't."

"Tatt, you better get over here." Digger knew immediately when he was in over his head.

Tattoo clicked her tongue against her teeth, abandoning the controls once the U-Wing was in place. She clambered stiffly out of her chair, still feeling the ache of being thrown from it. Making her way down from the cockpit, the mirialan joined her crewmates. Silver had not moved from where Tattoo had left her, belted still to the bench seat. Nothing physical prevented her from unbuckling and rising, but there she sat unmoving. Her eyes were fixed on the far wall, though Tattoo couldn't be certain Silver was looking at anything in particular, her stare distant.

"Silver?" Tattoo knelt beside her.

The other woman had not ceased her mantra, repeating quietly, "I just can't, I can't. I'm sorry, I can't."

Tattoo frowned, exchanging glances with Digger whose alien face did not yet betray his emotions. Trusting that his superior officer would handle this particular wrench in the cogs, the dug turned back to his task. Time was precious, they both understood.

"Silver, I need you to take a deep breath. Can you do that for me?" Tattoo's blue eyes sought out Silver's own.

Silver nodded vacantly, but did as she was asked, adjusting the pattern of her breathing without acknowledging the request. Her hands maintained a death grip on her seatbelt, knuckles blanched from the pressure. Tattoo pried her fingers free and took them into one of her own chartreuse hands, instinctively seeking the pulse at her wrist. The other woman continued to mutter softly.

"You're going to be okay, Silver. Everything is fine." Everything was not fine, but Tattoo needed her to believe. "Just slow down. Talk to me. Tell me what's going on in your head."

"I can't.. I can't do this anymore," Silver whimpered, looking through Tattoo more than at her. "I want to go home. I can't be here."

"You won't have to for much longer, we're going back to--" Tattoo's sentence died on her tongue. The Nautilian was gone. To whom would they report now? Where would they go? She didn't let the uncertainty show on her face, projective outward calm. "We're going back to the ship as soon as we're done here." Just which ship was something she could figure out later. Silver dissolved into tears.

Digger swung through the airlock, his departure announced only by the hydraulic hiss of the sliding door.

The A-Wing's canopy barely held together as Digger tugged on the release, enabling him to pull it open manually. The electronics had long since failed on this rig. Shards of transparisteel jutted out from where they had been fractured, tiny daggers pointing inward. He was careful to avoid them, climbing up the side of the ship and into the exposed cockpit.

The console and flight stick were a mess of mangled metal and protruding wires, but it was the huge durasteel beam that had done the most damage. Passing through one edge of the cockpit and disappearing out the other, the strut pinned the pilot bodily into her seat. Blood formed tiny red beads in the vacuum, a variable minefield of liquid floating around the major wounds. As Digger drew near, it became apparent the beam penetrated the pilot's leg and had punched through her abdomen on the way out.

"Callsign Angel," Digger read out over the radio, searching for the torch on his belt with one specialized foot. "Severe trauma. Impaled. Multiple organs affected. Life signs weak and faint, but present. I've got to cut them out."

Tattoo gave Silver's hand a squeeze. "We have to prep the table. Stay right here, okay? I'll handle it." Silver nodded mutely as Tattoo rose.

The flickering light of the torch cast strange shadows around an already morbid scene as Digger made quick work of the metal that held Angel captive. Extricating the pilot was another matter entirely, one that ultimately required Tattoo's assistance. It simply wasn't possible to move Angel in this condition without extreme care. One wrong twist, and she would die.

Once they were safely back inside the U-Wing, Tattoo directed Digger toward the piloting chairs. "Get us out of here. Find the nearest ship with an intact infirmary and tell them we've got an emergency."

Glancing between Tattoo and the pilot unconscious on the gurney before obeying, the dug retreated to the front of the vessel with a grim set to his normally stoic features. He had the decency not to make portents of death.

Unable to remove the projectile from Angel's body with the tools onboard, Tattoo set about stabilizing her for transport as best could be managed. Broken bones needed splints, lacerations needed tourniquets in a few places where bleeding needed to be stopped, but the internal damage would require surgery to repair. She secured the sections of metal beam she didn't dare extract, ensuring they wouldn't move and cause more tissue damage before arrival. There was only so much bacta could do. Making use of it where she could, Tattoo applied medigel to the worst external wounds and sealed them with bandaging.

Silver watched from where she sat, but barely seemed aware of what was happening. She did not speak further.

Attaching sensor pads at several places along the pilot's shattered body, she waited while the computer gathered vital data. The heart rate was terribly weak, blood pressure so far below normal that it was a wonder she still lived at all. Oxygen saturation was dangerously low, but a steady influx of breathable air would see to fixing that.

The faint beeps that held rhythm with Angel's pulse dipped frighteningly, inspiring the worried knit of Tattoo's brows. "No you don't," she threatened. "Don't you dare die on me now."

Searching through the drawers for the right vial, Tattoo popped a tiny canister of bright blue liquid into the injector and pressed it to the pilot's exposed skin. A quiet hiss accompanied the med delivery. Angel's body jerked slightly, shocked by the sudden invasion of stimulants. Her heart rate spiked, elevating while Tattoo's eyes danced between climbing numbers and the convulsing patient.

Another container, this time green, went into the injector and joined the serum pumping through the pilot's veins. Angel relaxed in her flight suit. Her vitals began to fall into balance. Tattoo released a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding.

"Dig? Where we going?" She called to the front.

"The Redemption," Digger shouted back over the roar of the engines. "She's agreed to take us in."

Thank the force, Tattoo heaved a sigh in relief.


Endor +16 Days

CRS Vigilant Main Briefing Amphitheater

The applause was loud, but not nearly as raucous as the cacophony that had erupted from the leadership announcement. Still, it carried on for some time until it eventually petered out on its own.

"'TEN-SHUN!" Stryker's voice echoed throughout the silent room. The crisp sound of pilots stomping their feet to stand at attention echoed off the walls.

Rear Admiral Tolden stepped to the podium. "With the organizational business and executive introductions handled, we have more... good news to dispense," he said with a smile while looking down at his datapad. He looked up at the assembled pilots and support personnel and his grin faded slightly, but noticeably. "Many of you have fought hard for the Alliance at Endor and our fledgeling New Republic in the weeks after. We've lost friends and comrades in the last three weeks that probably equals the number of friends and family we've lost in the years prior to Endor. You have all earned a free pass to sit out the rest of this struggle, ten times over."

Maybe we're getting raises, Knight thought with a silent chuckle.

Admiral Tolden continued. "Unfortunately, the New Republic cannot afford to let the most effective unit in Alliance history dissolve. I cannot allow you all to go. There is plenty of injustice left in the galaxy, and we must stamp it all out so all beings can be free to determine their own destinies. The one injustice I CAN resolve is that now this unit is not only the most effective unit in the New Republic, but it is also now the most DECORATED unit in the entire Starfighter Corps!"

Another cheer broke out, and despite the call to attention, none of the command staffers moved to enforce silence. Only Tolden seemed dismayed that order had been disrupted and his speech interrupted. His glare seemed to break the jubilant cheer completely on its own.

"Cause to celebrate, to be sure," Tolden bit out. "But let's try to hold off until the end, otherwise we will be here all week. Your Wing Command staff and Squadron Leadership have the official tallies of awards and promotions in order, and they will conduct the rest of this meeting. Rest assured, that many of you are in for a bump in rank, some of you might even be jumping up two ranks for conduct above and beyond the call of duty, and many of you are going to have new ribbons and medals to adorn your dress uniforms by the end of the day."

Tolden put his datapad into his pocket and looked up. "There is one person Vice Admiral Vodani would like to recognize out of the many that deserve it. Commander Alrick Durgan, please step forward!"

Krayt looked around in surprise, and a heartbeat later he stepped forward and resumed his attention posture.

Tolden walked over to Krayt and looked the man straight in the eyes. "Commander Durgan, for unparalleled gallantry in the heat of battle, and for putting the needs of the others ahead of yourself, you are hereby awarded the New Republic Distinguished Cross, for your actions throughout the Battle of Endor and more specifically your actions in the cleanup phase of the battle where you ignored personal threat to your craft to escort a critically wounded and crippled pilot to safety. This pilot would not be alive today were it not for your actions, and we are all eternally grateful that you were in the position you were in to complete this task. You have also been awarded the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and will now be in charge of the Renegade Wing Support Squadron." He paused, revealing the medal and rank bar from his breast pocket and leaned in to whisper distance. "Rest assured, however, that under my leadership of this taskforce, any future disregard for orders will result in immediate court martial, regardless of the result."

He affixed the medal and rank bar to Krayt's chest and stepped back. "Turn around and be recognized by your peers, Lieutenant Colonel."


Battle of Endor

Yellow Seven

POV: Knight

Hours. Knight had spent hours in the cockpit before, but never hours of such constant combat. Never as drawn out and violent as this. Not in all the years he'd been flying for the Alliance. Now, still almost 2 standard hours after the Death Star's destruction on top of the 1 or 2 hours before, he was running on fumes mentally.

What Imperials that had stayed after the Death Star's destruction had some kind of mad plan that they could still crush the rebel fleet. Their resistance had initially been fierce, but not organized. At the time that gave the Alliance an advantage. As more and more Imperial ships had left the fight, cooler heads had finally formed the remaining fleet to organize a retreat. It had seemed easy to pull individual Imperial ships away from their line and tear them apart. Now however, it looked as though someone had found a way to reign in the remaining Imperials.

To make matters worse, there was the constant danger of floating and speeding debris from the destroyed Death Star. More than one ship on both sides had been crushed or sheared in two by large shards of the ruined super weapon.

Knight nudged his A-wing out from behind Bulldog's as they sped to intercept another wave of tie bombers en route to the MC-80 at the center of an assault flotilla they were escorting.

The Imperials were finally falling back. They had set up what little remained of their massive fleet into a corridor for Imperial ground forces to retreat. The MC-80 was a dangerous ship, but an Imperial Star Destroyer was still more than a match for it. They needed plenty of support to get the better of the Imperial capital ship. Every push against the Imperial evacuation was met in turn with some Imperial ships trying to flank the Alliance attack. Knight didn't expect this thrust to go much differently.

He looked over his systems and keyed his comm, "Shields are back up Krayt. I think I've got power back to my port cannon as well."

"Great timing Knight. We're nearly on top of the target. Six, Seven form up on me. Things are going to get hairy really quick."

Bulldog and Knight moved their A-wings to either side of Krayt's Y-wing. As they raced away from the flotilla, Knight could start to see the lumbering shapes of the TIE bombers in formation.

Knight glanced out at the remainder of the squadron a couple klicks starboard of his fighter. They'd be occupying the TIE's escorting the bombers. Krayt's voice made him snap back to the fighters closing fast, "We're in range, open fire. Break 'em up, then pick your dupe!"

"Copy that Bulldog," Knight replied.

"Copy," Added Bulldog.

Knight gently let his A-wing yaw starboard, widening the gap between him and his flight. Twitching the flight stick back to the left, the HUD's cross-hairs turned green as they passed over a bomber. Without so much as a word, all three fighters began to fire at once. The space between them and the space in front of the bombers filled with blaster fire. Not wanting to step into the rain of fire, some of the bombers began to break off. Others, either with nerves of steel or sheer stupidity, charged onward.

Of the eight TIE bombers that Knight saw go through the fire: Three never made it out. Five kept on, though with serious scorch marks and holes in their wings. Knight picked his wounded target as they shot through what was left of the bomber formation. Dropping speed, Knight looped around to drop onto the tail of the bomber. He didn't wait for the reticle to turn green to open fire. Shots scattered around it, some found their mark.

Knight grinned as the bomber shuddered rolling awkwardly out of formation. Something exploded on the payload fuselage of the TIE Bomber and the engines died. The TIE slowed and started to tumble.

"One disabled, on to the next." Knight said.

"Copy Seven," He heard Bulldog reply breathlessly, "There's one that's twelve o'clock high from you. Make it next."

"On it Six." Knight pitched his A-wing 'up' and spotted his new target. It was moving faster than the rest of the formation. Not that it'd need blasters against the capital ships. Shifting shield recharge power to engines would help Knight's little fighter close the gap quickly. It would also leave his shields slowly deteriorating.

As Knight got into range, he began to fire again. Bolts nicked the solar panels, making dark scorch marks. It wasn't enough to spook the pilot into breaking off. A new wave of fire started flying past the bomber and Knight. As tired as he was, it took him a moment to realize it was anti-fighter fire from the corvettes in the assault group. Knight started to cork-screw his fighter as he pulled level with the bomber's tail to get another shot lined up on the wing he'd already hit. As he pulled the trigger, a shot from a corvette punched through the bomber's cockpit. There was a moment where the bomber kept flying forward, Knight's shots punched holes in the wings. The next moment it had become a fireball. Knight turned his A-wing and started cycling through targets.

There was nothing nearby, so Knight took a quick moment to scan the fight. If there were any bombers left, Two Flight and the Corellian corvette had chewed them up. He also saw that the Mon Cal was nearly in position. They had turned diagonally in front of the ISD and would be able to fire soon. John also saw an Arquitens light cruiser had moved out from the shadow of the Star Destroyer. It looked to be moving to get ahead of the rebel capital ship.

Before Knight could ask what the next plan was, he heard a familiar synthetic voice in his ears, "Yellow Squadron, this is Yellow One, sensors are picking up the Star Destroyer's escorts are starting to make their move. There is a Raider corvette and a squadron of Interceptors bearing down on us. We are to occupy them until our cruiser is in range. U-Wings are being deployed to the surface of Endor to reinforce our ground forces there, so no fighters can get through."

Knight nodded and started to swing his fighter towards Bulldog and Krayt. He knew the order was coming before Bulldog's voice filled the airwaves, "You heard the CO, time for a proper furball. Two Flight, form up on me."

Knight toggled his shields to double front and did his best to control his breathing. He quietly hated these head-to-head passes. Even more-so against squadrons with support. The two forces closed and the space between them filled with red and green. As the two sides clashed, a couple TIE Interceptors disintegrated to Yellow squadron's fire. Yellow fared better, though there were a few new scorch marks on some of the A-wings, Knight's included.

With the fear of accidentally frying their own TIEs, the Raider started firing more methodically rather than saturating local space with superheated death. Knight meanwhile had picked his target.

"Aaaaargggghhhh" Yellow Two's death cry screamed in his ears. The stricken A-Wing slammed into the base of the bridge tower in a ball of flame.

His quarry: an interceptor that decided to tail Yellow Leader. They initially didn't notice Knight as he joined the chase. "Lead, I'm on the TIE behind you. Bank left.... NOW!" Syntax did so and the instant his A-wing had started to break away Knight opened up on the Imperial. Most of the shots managed to avoid the TIE, but one struck the top of the ball cockpit. Instead of continuing to chase Syntax, it broke away with Knight sticking close.

The pilot tried his best, but Knight stuck to his tail through every weave, twist, and dive. While the TIE pilot couldn't get away, he didn't give Knight any good openings either. The TIE Interceptor seemed to not have anyone coming to their rescue, so the evasive maneuvering got more creative. Knight was getting tired and impatient with this game as the TIE dove again, this time straight for the Raider.

"I'm getting really tired of these Raider corvettes." Knight growled as he rolled close to the corvette's hull to follow his prey.

"But the last one was so helpful!" Krayt laughed.

"They didn't really help us by choice," Knight replied, clenching his teeth as he tightly turned to stay on his target. Fatigue was taking its toll. Knight didn't even notice the interceptor had led him to a large piece of drifting debris. The interceptor had seen it as an opportunity to lose his tail, or better let his tail smash into it. John yelped and instinctively jerked, rolling the A-wing, killing the throttle to make a wide corkscrew down and around what had been another Death Star.

Bulldog's voice growled in his ears. "Less talk. More focus."

There was an intense feeling of anger and shame as Knight resumed his pursuit. It was a mistake he shouldn't have made. To make matters worse the comms were a mess of Yellow Squad pilots calling out targets, statuses, and panic. John took a deep breath and felt the adrenaline push the fatigue away. There was suddenly an angry and unfamiliar voice that cut through all of it, "Yellow squadron, keep out of our firing lines! We don't need you in the middle of a broadside!"

Knight, distracted again, scanned the battlefield to make sure he wasn't in the way. Thankfully he was not and could make out the intense light show going on between the two capital ships. Knight could see the shields on the Star Destroyer flair but not fail. That was normal, an ISD's shields could usually shrug off the first few hits. Knight rolled away from the sight back to his target. He hoped that the rest would be enough to punch through the shields.

The elusive interceptor had kept it's distance, but had taken a wide arc around the battle between the two squadrons. The pilot had not forgotten about Knight's pursuit. The fighter came straight for him. With shields still in good shape, Knight gritted his teeth and opened up the throttle and put the A-wing into a narrow slow corkscrew. They closed on each other quickly, the interceptor would twitch and jerk to keep Knight from getting a shot. Still they both fired, shots flew past one another. A smattering flared on Knight's shields, stopped his corkscrew. More shots hit, shields nearly depleted, and John took the opportunity to fire a few aimed shots.

It was a hit. The shots sheared off the starboard solar panel, which sent the interceptor into a spin. Knight had intended to break away, but they were quite close and the spinning interceptor clashed the top of the A-wing. Shields failed, alarms wailed, and a panel burst.

Knight felt the panel hit his helmet hard, but never fell away. He had reached up and felt metal embedded in his helmet. "Dammit, I'm hit!" He tasted blood. He swore over the comms, "That's not good."

"Seven, where are you? Need help?"

Knight heard the voice, but couldn't tell who it was. "I can still fly. Shrapnel compromised my helmet. Can't see."

"Knight, keep it together. Turn to point four five. I can get you back towards the fleet."

Knight was panicking, but responded to the voice. He had no desire to die from a head wound in the cockpit. Not a drawn out death. He figured it'd been quick like so many other pilots he'd known. He started to hyperventilate, and what vision Knight still had started to be eaten away at the edges.

It seemed like an eternity until he realized it was even harder to see.

"Seven, are you okay? You're drifting." Icestorm maybe? Wait, he's out of the fight. Wolf? Knight wanted to focus on the voice, but could really only see a small circle, and there was no fleet. "Knight? You there? Respond!"

"I'm here. Really hard to see. Am I close?"

"Nearly there Seven, put your nose down ten degrees and cut your throttle to a quarter."

Knight again tried to respond, but found he couldn't judge the throttle by feel anymore.

"Nearly there Knight, but you're still too high. Put your nose down!" The voice now sounded like it was very far away.

Again, Knight thought he pushed the stick forward to put the nose down. Like instructed.

"Nose down! Just cut your engines! Knight? Knight! Home One is ... Yellow..." Words wavered in and out. Even the panic and fear seemed far away.

Not like this. Knight thought. Then things were quiet.

FRG Redemption: 8 hours later

Knight stared at the report. It was hard to focus on. Between the pain from his bandaged head and the chaos of the med bay around him, it was nearly impossible to focus on the triage report: Shrapnel had embedded in the right eye. Right eye lost. Eye socket fracture. Further skull fractures radiating out from the eye socket. Shrapnel removed, patient stabilized. Current condition non-life threatening but should remain in bed for monitoring until further notice. Good candidate for a cybernetic eye once bones heal. Not currently a priority for a bacta tank treatment given the number of more extreme injuries coming in from Endor.

No bacta tank meant the skull would probably have to heal on its own until the infirmary cleared up. This could keep him sidelined for ages. Knight wanted nothing more than to get back in an A-wing as soon as possible. Unfortunately, even if he could get bacta tank time, it wouldn't regrow his eye. A nearby scream also brought reality home: his pain was nothing to some of the wounded around him. Other maimed crew, and returning ground troops from Endor.

The door at the far end of the med bay opened and John immediately recognized the trio that came through. Knight smiled and put the datapad down on his legs. Bulldog and Wolf entered and started scanning the beds. A third, Syntax, pushed past them and started down the row of beds. The other two pilots looked at each other, shrugged, and tailed after the droid.

They approached the bed, smiling awkwardly. Well, the humans were at least. It was hard to tell with Syntax.

Bulldog broke the ice, "Damn Knight, you look like hell."

"Says the guy with blood still dried on his face from a massive nose bleed," Wolf jibed from next to him.

"Thanks Bulldog. Feel like it too. How are things on the outside?" Knight replied, ignoring Wolf's comment aside from taking a brief look at the crusted rust coating of blood under Bulldog's nose and chin.

Syntax made a sound like someone clearing their throat. "We have made an official tally. The casualties were significant. Not long after you made it back to Home One, the Empire finished it's retreat from Endor. The remaining fleet finally broke off and left the system."

Wolf looked concerned and ran his hand through his hair. "The Empire isn't giving us much time to regroup and repair. We're going to need you back as soon as you can."

"Yeah, just because we won, doesn't mean we get to go home yet." Bulldog joked.

"Knight, did you know that Home One had to nail your fighter with an ion shot? You had lost consciousness with the throttle half open. They couldn't tractor you into the hangar."

"You made at least one tech ill on the flight deck when they got you out." Wolf added.

"On top of the medevac pilot and crew of the shuttle that moved you here," Bulldog chuckled.

Knight looked slightly queasy. "I haven't even seen what I look like yet."

"Bet you'll have a wicked scar." Bulldog smiled.

Syntax raised an arm, "I have seen your prognosis. I am excited to see that you are eligible for a cybernetic eye."

"I'm a bit anxious about it. I know it can be better than my original eye, but I'm not sure what I expect to actually see..."

"Oh Lieutenant, you are going to love being less organic!" Syntax rattled in excitement. "You'll be able to see so many spectra. Depending on the model, you could even wire into your ship's targeting systems!"

"Thanks boss. That makes me feel a bit better."

"If you don't mind, I have already created a list of the best cybernetic eyes in the medical stocks available on the Redemption."

Knight grinned weakly, "I can't wait Commander."


Endor +16 Days

CRS Vigilant Mess Hall

"I take it you haven't gotten your orders yet?"

Anton nodded negative. "Still don't have any specific place to be. There's a big meeting going on in the amphitheater and I didn't get an invite I guess."

The female nodded thoughtfully, finishing a bite of biscuit and washing it down with a synthetic citrus juice. She blanched. "Ugh, if only I was back home and could have the real thing."

Anton smirked. "Yeah, if only," he replied wistfully.

Jessie shivered as the extra sour juice jolted her system. "Well, I got orders to go home for a few days before they reassign me to Skull Squadron." She paused, and arched her eyebrow. "You know, rebel pilots leave and come back on their own volition all the time..."

As if on cue, Anton's datapad pinged. He looked down and his shoulders deflated.

"Orders?" Jessie asked.

He nodded in return. "Yep, and there's now a distinction in the New Republic between taking leave and going AWOL. Unfortunately, I think that old loophole is now closed."

Jessie frowned. "That's too bad, Anton. It really is." She stood up slowly and rolled her shoulders. "I guess this is the last time we'll probably see each other then, right?"

"Yeah," he replied sadly, looking deeply into her eyes as if he was searching for some answer as to how he was feeling about everything he'd been recalling from the past month or so. Looking for some hint of an answer or course of action, but coming up with nothing other than a growing pit of sadness as he lost yet another person that held some importance to him.

"So, flyboy," Jessie leaned in close, "where are you bunking right now?"


Battle of Endor

CRS Defiance Crew Decks

POV: Ant

Anton had left his debriefing and was now free... But where to go? Most of his squadron had been killed, and those who hadn't were currently busy with other assigned duties. He found himself wandering the halls of this unfamiliar ship. It was bigger than the Nautillian, but that just made it seem more empty, despite the groups of people running back and forth. The officers had given up attempting to keep people in some form of check, and now countless celebrations had broken out across the ship.

Anton eventually found his way back to his assigned cabin. He stripped off his flight gear and, half numb, stumbled into the shower. He let the water fall over him and lost himself in the steam for a time. Memories of the battle flew in and out of his brain, some more vivid than the others. After drying off and throwing on a pair of pants and shirt, he sat down and stared at the wall of his cabin. They weren't HIS clothes, but then again all of his stuff was vaporized when the Nautillian winked out of existence.

His next step post battle, normally, would be to grab Glenn and go get into some sort of trouble involving generous amounts of alcohol, but that, of course, would never happen again. It took some time, but eventually his brain settled on going for a walk across the ship. Anything was better sitting in his cabin alone with the confusing mixture of sadness, accomplishment, and guilt weighing on him.

Several minutes later, he found himself wandering a particularly raucous hallway. His ears had gotten used to the sounds of celebration, and finally, a small smile had formed on his lips. The cost was high, but this was huge. For the second time, the Empire's super weapon had been wiped out, along with the pride and joy of the imperial fleet, the star destroyer Executor. There was plenty of cause to celebrate.

"Hey, hey you!" A voice came from a side room.

Anton looked to his right, into a rather large cabin, more than likely officer's quarters.

"What are you doing alone? Come in, grab a drink!" A tall, dark Duros male, still half in his Riot Squadron uniform, beckoned him forward.

"Uh..." Anton paused for a moment, then shrugged and smiled again. "Yeah, why not?"

As Anton walked in, he noticed there were about a dozen people in this room. All of them, at some level of inebriation, cheered haphazardly as he walked in.

"You're the second person we've gotten in this way!" Someone yelled and the Riot Squadron Duros, obviously a high ranking officer, popped the top off of a beer and handed it to Anton.

"The more the merrier, right?" Anton grinned after taking a sip of the warm brew.

"Huh, looks like we did find each other again." A voice said from behind Anton.

He turned around and stared. She was holding a new case of alcohol, more than likely bartered for or pilfered from one of the bars on the ship. Her red hair cascaded down over her shoulders as she smiled at him.

"Jessie... You did survive!" Anton managed to say.

"Don't sound so surprised." She handed the case of beer to the officer, then turned to Anton. "But really, good to see you. I heard about Green Squadron's losses and feared the worst."

"Managed to knock out the Executor's shields though," Anton said with a nod. "Got some payback at least."

"You're Green?" The Duros officer asked. "Damn... You DEFINITELY need more beer."

Anton turned to say something to him, but Jessie walked up and gave him a peck on the cheek.

"Let's get hammered, shall we?" She asked loudly, then closed in and whispered coyly. "Where are you staying tonight?"

"Fark the Empire!" Anton yelled, raising his beer.

"FARK THE EMPIRE!" The cabin chorused.



Battle of Endor

ISD Conviction Bridge

This is chaos.

Imperial Security Bureau Agent Tol Barand was seething. The extreme elation he felt at the beginning of the fight had slowly and inexorably soured as the battle progressed. The fleet the Emperor had arrayed to stamp out the rebellion had been the most glorious sight he had ever beheld in his life. His chest had almost burst with pride in the Imperial War Machine that had been gathered at Endor to crush the separatist rebels.

Now, though, something bitter had replaced that pride, and it was mirrored on his face. The amount of hubris and incompetence I've seen from all levels of our leadership today is sickening. The reason why we didn't bring the fleet in immediately to smash this rabble against the Death Star's shields disappeared with the Emperor's corpse when the station went nova. He paced back and forth as he continued to mentally recount every tipping point in the battle and how he would have avoided those pitfalls. He made sure to keep his posture straight and his hands clasped in the small of his back, ever the image of the consummate Imperial.

He paused his meandering as he neared the sensor pit and peered over the shoulders of the junior officers working there. His presence clearly made them nervous, as they all stole covert glances over their shoulders and lowered their cross-talk volume while he towered over them from the bridge platform above. Nervous officers. Not completely useless, but not great in a battle. His nostrils flared in annoyance at their timidity. It was the only visual tell he had that he was aware of, and no amount of training had allowed him to get rid of that reaction.

Agent Barand took stock of the situation displayed on the various sensor boards. The story of the battle was not great, but not yet lost either. With the Death Star and Executor gone, the fleet lines had more or less reformed as they had retreated to separate sectors. A few Imperial Star Destroyers. were still in very close positions to the rebel fleet, having no choice in their retreat vectors when word had been received that the Death Star's reactor was about to go critical. Another contingent of capital ships had formed up in the middle of the system to aid those exposed ships. The battle can still be won. We will reform under a new supreme commander, whoever it is, and we will still overwhelm the remaining rebels.

A few of the friendly sensor contacts nearest to the rebel fleet winked out of existence. The conversation in the sensor pit picked up in volume as confused questions and declarations started getting tossed about. "Did they leave or get destroyed?" the senior officer in the sensor pit asked, not getting a clear answer.

"Lieutenant," Agent Barand said toward the chief sensors officer, "what is happening?"

The Lieutenant turned around and was visibly startled by Agent Barand's presence. He composed himself quickly. "Unknown, Agent. We're trying to verify the information. Some friendly ships appear to have left the system," he said with derision.

Agent Barand nodded, just as confused as the officer, but his composure held so his surprise and anger didn't show on his face. This man has the right attitude for a higher position. He was so focused on his job that he didn't notice me watching him work while his team was easily distracted. "What is your name, Lieutenant?" I know your name already on top of your acquaintances and family back on Cantonica, but you will just think I'm taking an interest in you personally just this instant.

"Jaevion, Agent."

Barand nodded again. Time to bait the hook. "Please keep me apprised of the situation, Commander Jaevion. See me after this business is concluded. We have a few things to adjust going forward."

Jaevion smirked. "Understood, Sir," he replied crisply. He turned smartly on his heel and prodded his team for more answers. "Ensign, we need answers 30 seconds ago."

Barand again nodded, walking forward to observe the captain of the ship. The Captain was currently the stoic face of Imperial Implacability as he gazed out of the main viewport. It would almost be believable if we all hadn't watched this man fly around the bridge in a panic the entire battle. His frantic nature in battle had clearly filtered down into most of his subordinates. This crew needs to be restructured. Barand closed to about 10 paces and feigned interest in the gunnery pit's goings on but he focused his attention on the captain as he stood.

"Captain Candelle," the Conviction's executive officer called from the communications area. "Word from Command."

"Command? Admiral Piett went down with the Executor as best we can tell." Candelle strode over to the communications area next to the gunnery pit and looked down. "Yes, Commander?"

"Admiral Sloane aboard the Vigilance is taking command of the fleet and ordering us to recall our fighters and form up on her ship for retreat. The rearguard she has deployed will collect the other exposed ships."

Captain Candelle stood stock still for a moment, clearly deep in thought. "Retreat? We have enough assets still in-system to crush this rabble. Is anybody else trying to take command of the situation? There has to be somebody higher up the chain with some spine."

Agent Barand nodded, keeping the surprise from his face. Ok, not the response I would have expected from a captain still slicked with sweat from his frantic laps around the bridge. He leaned closer to the situation while still doing his best to remain inconspicuous. He didn't like surprises, even if they were pleasant ones.

"Communications are a mess right now with the Tarlandia not responding to our hails," the Commander replied. "She appears to be drifting without power, so I would assume she is lost."

"Very well," Candelle sighed, and then appeared to have a mental conversation back and forth, nodding his head each time. "The Conviction shall lead by example, then. Make ready to attack the nearest rebel ships. Other ships will follow suit. Recall our fighters to form up on our ship, and broadcast our intentions on the main frequency."

The bridge was a flurry with activity as the orders were carried out. Barand moved behind the captain. "Attack. Excellent strategy, Captain Candelle," he said.

The Captain turned to look at him with a start. "You agree with my assessment, Agent?"

Barand nodded, ignoring the obvious barb the Captain sent his way by not utilizing his name despite multiple meetings and conversations between the two. "Of course, Captain," he said, allowing the captain to have the satisfaction in his slight. "Sloane is a coward, as are the ships complying with her orders. They will come around once they see what this ship does to another Rebel cruiser."

"We will turn this battle around," Candelle replied with a grim smile. "Now, give my people room to operate, if you please, Agent."

It was a dismissal. A real officer doesn't have room for pettiness. Have it your way, Captain. Agent Barand stepped back to the sensor pit but made sure to remain within earshot of the communications center and the captain. "Jaevion, what's the situation?"

"Two more Destroyers have joined us, but the rest of the battle group is moving toward the Vigilance. The two that have joined us are ahead of us."

"Wait, only two?" Barand replied, not able to hide the disappointment and shock from his face this time. I never thought I'd see the day when Imperial Captains would back down from a winnable fight. He looked back to the Captain, who remained stock still at the front of the bridge. "What is the rebel fleet doing?"

"I see a very large contingent of ships reforming to meet us."

"How large?" Barand replied.

"Enough to slag three Star Destroyers 4 times over," Jaevion replied grimly.

"I see," Barand replied. "And the rest of our fleet?"

"Drifting outbound, preparing to hyper out after the ships closest to the Rebel fleet are safely recovered is my guess."

"Then this is suicide it seems," Barand replied, disappointed. "Admiral Sloane has abandoned a winnable fight."

"Another item to adjust, Sir?" Jaevion replied with a smirk.

"Indeed, Commander," Barand replied quietly. He looked back to Captain Candelle and saw him now engaged in an animated conversation with his executive officer near the communications pit. He strode forward quickly to join in the meeting. Stoic Imperial Implacability indeed.

"What do you mean they are retreating, Hark?" Candelle asked in a panicked voice. "They aren't staying to fight?"

"No, sir," Commander Hark responded. "Colonel Nuress of the Pursuer has recalled her fighters and is making a move to escape. The Captain of the Accuser is talking of surrender. With the rest of the fleet outbound, these two ships will not fight."

Candelle appeared frozen at the news. In the viewport, the Pursuer plotted a quick escape course and winked out of the system after recovering her fighters. The damaged Accuser rolled and presented its ventral surface to the approaching rebel ships like a submissive nexu showing its belly.

"Sir!" an ensign in the communications pit exclaimed. "We are being ordered by the Rebels to power down and surrender our ship, or else suffer destruction!"

Candelle looked stricken. It was clear that the idea that the Imperial fleet would retreat and not follow his example hadn't even crossed his mind before undertaking this course of action. "Surrender? I... Uh... Ahhhh..."

Barand sneered again. Inflexible and unable to adapt, even if he had the right idea initially. However, the situation has clearly changed and it is time to retreat. He strode next to the Captain until he was in front of the frozen leader. "Captain, it is time to recall our fighters and retreat."

"Retreat?" Candelle squeaked out.

Barand pursed his lips. "What other option is there, Captain? We cannot win this fight, and this isn't the place to throw our lives away." There were murmurs of agreement at that last point throughout the various bridge pits.

"You forget your place, Agent!" The executive officer bit out from next to the captain. "You are not military, and you have no authority here during combat operations."

"You defend a Captain that is debating the action of handing a vessel of the Imperial Navy over to the Rebels?" Barand inquired coyly, already knowing the response from the ever-predictable Commander.

Commander Hark didn't miss a beat. "The Captain has kept us all alive this long. I back his play."

Loyalty to a traitor, Commander Hark? Disappointing. Barand frowned. "We are one Imperial Star Destroyer versus the entire Rebel fleet. The ONLY course of action left to us is for us to leave and rejoin the rest of the fleet."

Candelle blanched. "We weren't given the rendezvous system."

For the second time today, Barand was surprised by the Captain. This time however, unpleasantly. He tried to keep it from registering on his face, but his nostrils rebelled and flared again. "Because we made a move to attack." And Sloane didn't want the coordinates to be recovered by the Rebel fleet in clear eventuality that the Conviction would be destroyed. His mind immediately started working on possible destinations to retreat and attempt to consolidate forces. "Then we should plot a jump out of the system so we can attempt to make contact with the fleet at a later date."

"Agent," Commander Hark replied angrily. "I will have you removed from this bridge if you say one more word."

Candelle looked at his feet and slumped his shoulders. "Comms, signal the rebel fleet that I will surrender the Conviction."

"Belay that order!" Barand interrupted, freezing the communications officer in his place.

The Commander's hand went to his hip and drew his service pistol, aiming at Agent Barand's belly. "That is quite enough, Agent. You will be placed in the brig to answer for this later." He looked over his shoulder to signal the fleet guards at the other end of the bridge. "Guards, take..."

He never got to finish his sentence. Barand drew his sidearm with lightning speed and burned the commander down with a shot to the chest. He crumpled down to the deck, his sidearm clattering across the metal plating of the bridge platform. The smell of ozone and burnt flesh spread throughout the bridge. Captain Candelle recoiled a few steps in shock, his hands flinching up in fear.

The two fleet guards skidded to a stop and leveled their blasters at Barand 10 paces away. "Sir! You will surrender your weapon and come with us, or else."

Barand looked at the two fleet troopers, their uniforms slightly disheveled and their boot toes scuffed an unacceptable amount. He looked at their faces and accessed his mental rolodex of information. Sergeant Dix from Onderon and Corporal Bork from Ghorman. Substandard troopers with even worse uniform habits. Dix had a brother taken by the ISB last year for a rebellious screed he had posted on the nets back home, and had subsequently died in the reeducation camp he was sent to. They will shoot me if I do anything other than what they ask, and they are good enough shots to do so. "Troopers, let's think this through."

Dix shook his head negative. "Agent, you will surrender your weapon and come with us now, or we will burn you down here."

Candelle recovered his nerve at that moment. "Troopers, take this traitorous scum to the brig."

Barand snorted. "Traitor! You are the one ordering the surrender of this vessel of the Empire to the Separatist Rebels!"

"Drop your weapon, sir!" Dix shouted, raising his blaster slightly.

"Drop your weapons, troopers," Jaevion said from behind the fleet guards, his pistol drawn. Beside him was the rest of his sensor pit crew, with their sidearms drawn and raised as well. "It's time to make a change."

Candelle's face turned bright red with rage. "You mutinous DOGS! I ought to have you all shot!" He drew his weapon and aimed it lazily at Barand. "This shall not stand on my ship!"

Barand took in the scene calmly, and knew exactly what would happen before it did. Bork is going to panic and try to burn down Jaevion's team behind him, but will be unsuccessful. Dix will dive aside and try to do the same thing, and he will get a few if not all of them. Loyal officers will die unless I act now! He noted that the troopers' blasters were lowered but not dropped. It would give him enough time to act in a way that would save countless lives. He flicked the wrist on his open hand and a holdout blaster appeared. He raised his arm quickly and pumped a scarlet bolt into the side of Captain Candelle's head. As the Captain's corpse toppled over, he aimed both blasters at the troopers. "This is the EMPIRE'S ship, Captain," he said quietly, but clear enough for all to hear. "It is not yours to surrender."

"Sergeant Dix and Corporal Bork," Barand started calmly, "My job is to punish traitors as well as recognize good and loyal service to the Empire, and I see nothing but loyalty in the both of you. Please holster your weapons and return to your posts so I can get this ship out of harm's way and away from the disastrous surrender plot the previous Captain started us on."

The two troopers were startled at hearing their own names, obviously not used to their names being known to the officers that inhabited the areas they guarded. They looked to each other, had what appeared to be a telepathic discussion, and then both nodded as they relaxed their postures. Their blasters went back into their holsters, and both troopers looked back to Barand.

"Sir," Dix said, "we are at your disposal."

Barand lowered his weapons, as did Jaevion and his sensor team. "Very well, troopers. Return to your post."

The troopers turned and took one step toward the bridge doors. Two more blaster shots rang out on the bridge, and both troopers pitched forward, and lay on the ground unmoving. The rest of the crew was also unmoving, including the junior officers next to Jaevion. All eyes were on Barand, waiting to see what the agent would do next.

Barand scanned the bridge, and saw that no other threats were around. He holstered his sidearm and restored the holdout blaster into his wrist holster and secured the spring to conceal the weapon again. He straightened his shirt with gloved hands and shook his head clear. Seeing all eyes still upon him he straightened his posture to get every bit of his 185.4 cm to look taller. "Let it be known that anybody that has ever aimed a blaster at me has been killed."

Jaevion looked uncomfortable, but he still nodded in the affirmative. "Sir, the ship is yours. What are your orders?"

Barand sent a curt nod to Jaevion in return. "Commander Jaevion, please return your team to the sensor station. I will be relying heavily upon them shortly. I would like you to stay near them, but stay on the platform as my executive officer for the remainder of this mission."

Jaevion beamed with pride at his new rank and elevation being voiced in front of the entire bridge crew. "Yes sir," he replied as he wheeled around and ushered his team back to their post. "Let's go, Ensign. Kick it into high gear."

Barand turned to his comms officers. "Recall all of our starfighters to the hangar, as well as the remaining fighters from the Accuser. Also broadcast to the Accuser that all loyal Imperial officers have 2 minutes to reach our ship via escape pod or shuttle before we leave them to the rebel death camps." He listened as his orders were carried out word for word, and his chest swelled with excitement. I never planned to captain a ship in this line of work any larger than a freighter or shuttle, but I think this might grow on me. Chaos has its uses. "Have the deck officer on the hangar report with a full count of recovered fighters by type and fighter capability at his earliest convenience."

He strode to the front of the bridge near the helm pit. "Helm, turn us about 90 degrees to port from our current heading. Wait for one minute while we recover our fighters and any other Imperial craft headed our direction. Plot a hyperspace jump to the Hudalla system and have it ready to go on my command."

"Aye aye, Captain."

He surveyed the flashes of light reflected off of the TIE fighters as they returned to the hangars quickly but in the typical Imperial fashion. Calm and orderly. Professional. I'll need to meet with Major Kenner when we are underway, along with the other leadership from the various branches aboard the ship. He didn't expect any trouble from the people he mentally added to his meeting list, as they were all consummate Imperials, and they would be just as eager to bloody the nose of the terrorists that had just murdered hundreds of thousands of their compatriots this day.

His chrono showed a minute had passed. "What is the status of our fighter recovery operations? How much time remaining?"

"90% complete, sir, plus another 32 fighters from the Accuser. We're packed in tight in the hangars and some fighters have been put into the auxiliary docking bays. Should be completed in the next 30 seconds."

Barand nodded. "Did we not have any casualties in the fighter wing during the battle that we need the extra hangar space?"

"Captain Candelle kept the squadrons in a close holding station near the ship the entire battle," Jaevion interjected. "We took very few casualties aside from the one squadron sent forth in the initial battle that was completely wiped out.

Barand hadn't noticed that during his observations of the crew during the battle, but it was good news nonetheless. "Excellent. Sensors, any shuttles or escape pods headed our way?"

Jaevion shook his head from down the platform. "Negative, Captain."

"A pity," Barand replied. "Well, they are all traitors then. Guns, target the Accuser with everything we've got and reduce it to slag as we leave. Leave as little as possible for the Rebels to use. Begin firing in 15 seconds."

"Sir, Rebel ships are approaching. They will be in maximum range in 45 seconds!" Jaevion reported loudly.

"Helm, keep the Accuser between them and us as we recover the last of our fighters," Barand ordered coolly. The deckplates rumbled as the ship maneuvered. Quick reaction time. Excellent.

After 15 seconds, he told the gunnery crews to open fire. Sheets of green turbolaser fire melted hull plates of the powered down Star Destroyer. Blue Heavy Ion Cannon bolts caused azure lightning to dance all over the surface of the Accuser, disabling key systems and stopping the crew from powering their shields back on. The torrent of destruction continued to rain on the traitorous ship until the entire upper hemisphere was a blackened hellscape of jagged metal and fire.

"Rebel ships in firing position in 10 seconds, Captain," Jaevion reported.

"Fighters recovered completely?"

"Completely, sir. 92 TIEs have been secured."

"Captain, I have a few Lambda class shuttles launched from the Accuser requesting a berth," the comms officer reported.

"Guns, burn them down. They were too slow to follow orders. They are likely traitors that only saw the error of their ways once their ship was lost. Or, they are just Imperials that are too slow to follow orders, and neither of those two groups have a place in the Imperial Navy any longer."

"Aye aye, Captain," the gunnery chief replied crisply.

Barand clasped his hands behind his back and started walking toward the bridge exit. "Helm, take us into hyperspace. Let's find the rest of the fleet and strike back when the time is right. Commander Jaevion, you have the con." He gestured to the four smoking corpses he'd created. "Clean up my bridge."

"Aye aye, Captain Barand."

Chaos is a ladder, ISB Agent turned Naval Captain Tol Barand thought as he left the bridge. Time to see just how high that ladder will take me.

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